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Chinese music group visits DL

Tarim Uygur Song & Dance Troupe is the fourth and final act in the 2011-13 Arts Midwest World Fest coming to the Historical Holmes Theatre on April 27. Submitted Photo

In the summer of 2011, it was announced that Detroit Lakes had been chosen as a host community for Arts Midwest World Fest, a two-year arts outreach program that helps bring some of the world’s finest music and dance ensembles to communities throughout the Midwest.

Detroit Lakes was one of nine Midwestern cities selected to take part in the 2011-13 Arts Midwest World Fest, and the only partner community in Minnesota to be chosen for the two-year program.

Each two-year World Fest cycle brings four international ensembles into the partner communities. Each of the four groups partakes in a weeklong artist residency, visiting various schools, libraries, nursing homes and other venues to share their music, dance and culture with the people in the community.

“Our goal is to make lasting impressions in the communities that host Arts Midwest World Fest,” says David Fraher, executive director of of the Twin Cities-based Arts Midwest. “Our musicians do not simply perform one evening and leave. Rather, they conduct extensive residencies, where they perform in schools and in a variety of community venues.

“They conduct dozens of workshops about their culture, music and language. We want this to be a rich experience for the full community.”

Over the past two years, Detroit Lakes has hosted visits from Egypt’s Wust el Balad, Israel’s Yamma Ensemble, and Bali’s Cudamani.

This coming week will mark the fourth and final World Fest residency in the community, by the Tarim Uygur Song & Dance troupe from western China.

“It’s rare for small and mid-size Midwestern communities to host such fascinating ensembles from such a distant location as Western China,” said Amy Stearns, executive director of the Historic Holmes Theatre — host venue for the World Fest program.

“The culture that Tarim Uygur Song and Dance will share with our community will be an exciting change from what we typically hear in the Midwest.

“The ensemble will be in Detroit Lakes for a full week and we expect this residency will be a delightful experience for our entire community.”

Ultimately, said Arts Midwest senior program director Ken Carlson, the aim of the World Fest program is to awaken “a spirit of adventure” in each host community.

“I think what we’ve hopefully done in Detroit Lakes is to create a little bit of an appetite for groups that are atypical,” Carlson said. “Maybe now there’s a little bit more of a willingness for people to say it might be cool to hear some music from somewhere else — like they’d say, ‘Maybe this group from Portugal is going to be more interesting than I would have thought.’”

Carlson said that he sometimes travels with the World Fest groups, and has had many opportunities to see and hear them in action.

“Tarim is from the Xinjiang Province in far western China,” he said. “All of the members live in or around the city of Urumqi, and they’re all professional musicians and dancers.”

The group includes 18 musicians and dancers as well as an interpreter and a bus driver.

“They play a variety of string and percussion, and a couple of wind instruments as well,” Carlson said. “The instruments are tied tightly to their own culture.

“The Uygurs are ethnic minorities — one of many such minorities in China.”

The Uygurs’ primary religion is Muslim, Carlson added, and their culture is more closely aligned with the countries that lie along the western border, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, than with mainstream Chinese culture.

“Most of the members do not speak English,” he continued, which is why they travel with an interpreter who is fluent in both languages.

This is, however, the group’s second visit to the United States, so they are becoming slightly more comfortable with American customs, Carlson added.

“They are lovely people, and some of the finest musicians of their kind,” he said. “We think they’re really going to do a good job.”

Members of the ensemble have earned more than 20 national and international awards for their skill and the beauty of their music. The ensemble not only wishes to preserve the ancient Uygur cultural heritage, but also works to add to it by collecting forgotten melodies and songs and by creating new work built on the old traditions.

Tarim will be arriving in Detroit Lakes this evening, and will spend the next several days at schools in White Earth, Ogema, Lake Park-Audubon, Frazee-Vergas and Detroit Lakes as well as doing workshops at other venues.

Like their World Fest predecessors, Tarim’s visit will culminate in a concert at the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, set for this Saturday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the show are $15 for adults and $7.50 for students, and can be purchased online at, by phone at 218-844-7469, or by visiting the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454